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Argue All You Like, But This Is Mad Men’s Greatest Line


Even in death, Miss Blankenship provides one of Mad Men’s funniest moments. When she expires unexpectedly at her desk in season four episode nine “The Beautiful Girls”, her exit leads to some some grade A clowning. Still upright on her wheelie chair, her corpse draped in a blanket that leaves her legs comically exposed, she’s wheeled across the back of shot in a silent farce. Don and co.’s eyes widen as they attempt to keep their meeting on track while, behind their clients’ heads, Pete and Joan push Miss Blankenship to a better place. 

It’s only afterwards, when Ida’s being borne away in more dignified style on a medical gurney, that Mad Men once again justifies its title as Best Written TV Show of All Time. (Yes, we can fight about it, but to warn you, I’ll win.) Bert Cooper, the only member of the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce team to have made the journey around the sun more times than his ex-secretary, stubs out the fun with feelings. Actor Robert Morse beautifully deflates Cooper with grief and everybody sobers up – figuratively, of course, this is still Mad Men.

Later, tasked with writing Miss Blankenship’s obituary, inveterate ad man Cooper is frustrated that he can’t come up with the right slogan to send her on her way. Pacing around Roger Sterling’s office, he berates himself for a lack of ideas. Roger of course knows exactly what to do – call Joan, who calmly and effectively starts drafting copy. The obit fills out with kind but bland platitudes: loyal friend, devoted caretaker, quietly in her sleep… “What’s her profession? Secretary?” asks Roger. “Executive Secretary,” corrects Joan, conferring a little more dignity on the dead woman.

Bert Cooper speaks, and then walks out of the room: “She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper. She’s an astronaut.”

Robert Morse as Bert Cooper in Mad Men Season 4 Episode 9 The Beautiful Girls

It’s one hell of a line. And it describes one hell of a journey, not just from the dirt to the sky, from the past to the future, but from punchline to… innovator, conqueror, hero – words not commonly used to describe lowly female secretaries in their sixties.

The line equates the achievements of Miss Blankenship – a kind of Roz from Monsters Inc. in human form – with the achievements of the twentieth century. According to Cooper’s tagline, Ida didn’t just live her life, she flew it from star to star. (Two years before Miss Blankenship’s death, Russian Valentina Tereshkova had been the first female cosmonaut to travel in space. If not for her, then Bert’s eulogy might have been more banal.)



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